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Retrieving stored items from a warehouse is as important as inventory management. In this highly competitive age when fast deliveries such as next-day delivery play a crucial role, quick order picking is critical. One can follow one of many order picking methods to improve efficiency. However, which is the right method for you?

Logistics

This article takes a closer look at what order picking is and methods of order picking. Also, it suggests how one can select the right method for their warehouse.

What is order picking?

Order picking may sound like a complicated term. However, it is not. In fact, it is as simple as its literal meaning. Order picking means the process of picking products from the warehouse inventory for the purpose of fulfilling a customer’s order.

When a customer places an order, one needs to fetch the exact product from the warehouse. It is a labor-intensive task that has to be done with accuracy.

Order picking might be a simple task in a small-scale warehouse. However, in a warehouse that stores thousands of products, one needs precision to locate and fetch the right product. If a wrong product is picked for the order, there are chances of bearing the cost of reverse logistics. Therefore, order picking holds immense importance.

There are various ways in which the activity of order picking is undertaken.

Order picking methods

Generally, there are three types of order picking systems – piece picking, case picking, and pallet picking. These are further categorised into five different processes – single order picking, batch picking, multi-batch picking, zone picking, and wave picking. Each one is explained below.

Type of order picking Explanation
Piece picking
  • When items are picked one at a time
  • Common when orders have several SKUs but per pick quantity is smaller
Pallet picking It is when the picker picks a pallet full of items and sends it to the packaging area. It can be a large item or several small items.
Case picking
  • It is when items are picked in a pallet but the picker does not wait for the entire pallet to be filled. Only a part full of the pallet is picked and sent to the packing area.
  • This generally takes place when there are a large number of SKUs with fewer items per SKU.

 

Now, let’s look at the five processes of picking.

Single order picking

It is when the picker only picks one order at a time and takes it to the packing area. This method is more suitable for warehouses that are smaller in size. Picker can fetch the product in any way either piece picking, pallet picking or case picking.

Ideal for
  • Smaller warehouses
  • New warehousing businesses
Benefits Simple method

Batch picking

Batch picking is when the picker picks multiple orders in a single run before going to the packing area. The batch picking method is suitable for warehouses that have large orders and products sizes are smaller. This method is usually used with piece picking and is not very relevant with pallet and case types of order picking.

Ideal for Warehouses handling higher volumes
Benefits
  • Quick and effective type of order picking
  • More productivity as multiple orders are picked at the same time
  • Cost saving
  • Cuts down the travel time of the picker

Zone picking

Zone picking is suitable for large warehouses that handle high volumes of orders. The warehouse is divided into different zones and a certain zone is assigned to each picker. Zone picking can be used with piece picking, pallet picking or case picking.

Ideal for Large warehouses which can be divided into zones
Benefits
  • Several orders can picked simultaneously
  • Time saving
  • Reduces travel time of pickers
  • Lesser chances of errors

Pick and pass

This system supports zone picking. In the pick and pass type of picking, products are picked, and it is passed to the next zone. Likewise, all SKUs in an order are picked and then they are sent to the packing station. This method too can be applied in all three types of picking methods.

Ideal for Large warehouses
Benefits
  • Time saving and reduces labour work
  • Numerous orders can be handled simultaneously

Wave picking

Wave order picking is similar to pick and pass. However, the difference is that pickers simultaneously collect items in their zone pertaining to different orders. Then, all picked items are collected and consolidated as per the orders. After consolidation, items are sent to the packing area.

Ideal for Large warehouses
Benefits
  • Reduces time
  • Multiple orders can be handled simultaneously

 

What is an efficient order picking method?

There is no straightforward answer to this question. In fact, an efficient method of order picking depends on various aspects. Here is how you can determine the efficient order picking method for your business.

  • Analyse the volume of orders you handle on a daily basis. Also, understand the scale and layout of your warehouse so that you can determine the right method.
  • Understand the current challenges in order picking. Determine if you want to improve travel time, accuracy of picking, or anything else.
  • If you have a large warehouse and the volume of orders is very high zone order picking or pick and pass order picking can be the right choice for you. However, if your warehouse is comparatively smaller but the volume is high, you can use the batch picking method.

Tips for order picking

  • To improve travel time, consider keeping high-volume stock closer to the packing area. This will save travel time and effort of pickers.
  • You can also consider storing slow-moving goods deep inside the rack, while fast-moving products can be stored in front.
  • If racks of the warehouse are open from both sides, products can be picked up from either side.
  • If you have a large warehouse, consider investing in material handling equipment and a robust warehouse management system. Additionally, inventory management also plays an important role in logistics and warehouse management.
  • All single-item orders can be grouped for picking. Since they do not require any sorting and consolidation, they can directly be sent to the packing area. This can eliminate inefficiencies in the order picking process.
  • Review and refine the order picking process continuously.

Swati Deshpande

Swati is a passionate content writer with more than 10 years of experience crafting content for the business and manufacturing sectors, and helping MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) navigate complexities in steel procurement, and business services. Her clear and informative writing empowers MSMEs to make informed decisions and thrive in the competitive landscape.